Ingredient Focus : Oil
Oil is very calorie dense and is a great way of adding additional calories (energy) to the diets of horses that need extra help with weight gain, as well as providing a non-heating source of energy.
. It isn’t a necessary addition to all horse’s diets, however, if you have a horse that struggles to maintain weight, has a small appetite or is a picky eater, adding oil can work really well to help keep meal sizes small but pack in the calories to help with weight gain. Feeding oil can also provide a great source of alternative energy compared to cereals in the diet making it an ideal feed ingredient for horses with naturally more fizzy or excitable temperaments or those that require a lower starch feed. Oil is a slow-release source of energy so provides the energy in a controlled way and is great for horses that struggle with stamina as it will help to provide slow-release energy in the diet.
Feeding oil can also be beneficial to help improve coat and skin condition and some horses may require a slightly higher oil level in the diet to help with this. Feeding additional oil isn’t necessary for all horses though. As oil is so calorie dense it isn’t suitable to be fed in large quantities to good-doers or horses that are more at risk of becoming overweight so do consider the type of horse you have and the reason for feeding oil before adding it to the diet.
What type of oil should we feed?
There is a lot of choice when it comes to feeding oil and any good quality, vegetable oil will be suitable to feed to horses. The choice of what oil to feed comes down to why you are feeding it. If you are looking to support coat and or skin condition, feeding linseed oil is a great idea as the high level of omega-3 fatty acids help with skin cell elasticity and coat shine. If you are looking to feed oil for weight gain or as an energy source you can feed liquid vegetable oil but if large quantities need to be fed, this can get messy. In addition, a 'splash,' of oil will not increase a horses's calorie intake to encourage weight gain, and larger quantities of oil will increase the number of free radicals that are produced in the horses body. Free radicals damage healthy cells, and for every 100ml of liquid that is fed, an additional 100IU of Vitamin E should be added to the feed. In this case, opting for a pelleted oil such as a rice bran supplement (rice bran being naturally high in oil) can be beneficial as it takes the messiness away from feeding large quantities of liquid oil and also helps to increase palatability. Pelleted oil also has the benefit of ‘staying fresher’ for longer. Liquid oil will go rancid very quickly when exposed to air and light whereas pelleted oil supplements are stabilised to avoid this. If you aren’t feeding a lot of oil or will only be using it occasionally, a pelleted oil supplement may be a better choice as it will keep for longer.
Another source of oil for horses is fish oil, which is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, and these types of fatty acids are really good for helping to reduce inflammation. The type of omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil is more utilisable to the horse than vegetable sources of omeg-3 fatty acids so if you are looking for an oil for anti-inflammatory purposes i.e., for skin complaints, breathing issues or joint support opting for a fish oil would be more beneficial than a vegetable oil.
Do I need to buy from a specialist?
Where you buy your oil from will depend on the reason for feeding it. If you are looking for linseed oil you will have better luck at a feed merchant than at your local supermarket but if it’s a vegetable oil you are looking for the supermarket can sometimes be the easier and cheaper option to pop in the trolly with the weekly shop. Although, most feed merchants will have a good range of liquid oils available either in the feed barn or on the shelf with the rest of the supplements. Specialist forms of oil such as pelleted options and fish oil specifically for horses, will only be found through your feed store or online. Pelleted sources of oil tend to come in large quantities i.e., 15-20KG bags so will more than likely be with the rest of the horse feed in the feed barn.
Equi-Jewel® is a stabilized rice bran supplement that will increase the energy density of the ration, providing additional calories for weight gain and conditioning. The high oil, high fibre, low starch levels make Equi-Jewel® a perfect feed for supporting weight gain in horses more prone to fizzy or excitable behaviours, as well as those with an increased risk of digestive or metabolic issues. It is comparable to feeding liquid oil, but does not hinder forage digestion, is much more palatable, and is higher in energy (calories). In addition, Equi-Jewel® contains added antioxidants to support muscle health and development. You can adjust the amount of Equi-Jewel® you feed accordingly from a minimum of 500g up to a maximum of 1kg per day.
EO-3™ is a unique source of omega-3, derived from marine sources that can help maintain an optimal omega-3: omega-6 fatty acid ratio in equine diets. These essential fatty acids cannot be made by the horse and have to be supplied by the diet. There are two main categories of essential fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Grass fed horses receive a large proportion of omega-3 essential fatty acids from their grazing, whilst hay and cereals contain less omega-3’s. The equine body is more suited to a diet higher in omega-3’s compared to omega-6’s. Modern feeding regimes, combined with management and an increased reliance on conserved forages could mean that some horses are receiving a higher proportion of omega’6 fatty acids. Supplementing the diet with EO-3™ will help to restore balance.
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